Everyone is talking about engagement, and local researchers are no exception. This is what we found out recently when our UK team attended the LARIA (Local Authority Research and Intelligence Association (LARIA) annual conference.
It was great to see local researchers in the UK public sector sharing their experiences, learnings and best practices with others. The conference tackled a big challenge: how to prove that the work done by local researchers makes a difference to their organisations and to the people they serve.
I think other researchers - including those working in marketing - can learn a lot from the LARIA presenters. If you work in research, here are 3 lessons you can learn from your colleagues in the local authority:
- Vision Critical UK (@VC_London) May 13, 2013
- Focus on people rather than organisations. Many speakers emphasized the importance of focusing on society and people rather than the specific councils and organisations the delegates worked for. Many agreed that by concentrating directly on the people and places they lived, their research would be more valid and personalised - and, therefore, more likely to influence decision making effectively. This is true in marketing also: by focusing on your consumers' needs, you can better show the value of your research. If your company is used to making decisions through gut feeling, focusing on customers can help validate your instincts or flag potentially catastrophic business decisions.
- Demonstrate a link between research and outcome.In a recent study of SOLACE (Society of Local Authority Chief Executives) members, 4 out of 5 heads of local government in the UK acknowledge the importance of robust evidence in decision making. During the conference, we also heard several examples that demonstrated a direct link between research and government action. The research conducted by local authorities is important: it directly impacts how organisations in the public sector manage future demand, allocate resources, and evaluate the success of policies.
To remain relevant in their companies, researchers also need to make the connection between their work and how it moves the needle. Data is only important if it manages knowledge and if it can be presented as evidence. If you're a researcher, you have to present your insights in an easy-to-understand format, making sure that it comes back to key performance indicators that decision makers in your company care about.
- Build engagement.The constant need for citizen engagement was particularly evident when listening to various presentations and speaking to local authority researchers. Attendees want to get a deeper understanding of the public wants and needs and be able to do this in a time and cost effective way.
Engagement is not new to researchers and marketers, and this is where insight communities can play a role. Given their ability to facilitate ongoing two way conversations, insight communities can increase dialogue, build relationships and close the loop on engagement.
The conference showed that local researchers are proud, passionate and enthusiastic about their work - as they should be. In the age of public disengagement, the need for insight-led policy is more important than ever, and local researchers play a critical role in facilitating this. Similarly, as consumers become more fickle and sometimes disengaged, researchers can help ensure the customer's voice remains top-of-mind for the marketing team and the rest of the C-suite.
Were you at the LARIA conference this year? What lessons from local researchers resonated most with you?